|<< WoR Ch. 79: Toward the Center / WoR Ch. 81: The Last Day >>|
|“||You must become king. Of Everything.||”|
–From the Diagram, Tenets of Instruction, Back of the Footboard: paragraph 1
Progression of the Chapter:
Shallan climbs a hill and sees a city; the Highprinces discuss their options; Shallan contributes her opinion; the decision to push on is agreed; Dalinar grills Shallan on the Oathgate; Kaladin walks the camp, hating the rain and regretting his choices; Elhokar awaits him at the barrack; the King speaks frankly, seeking Kaladin’s advice on being heroic; Kaladin cannot help him, but also speaks frankly; Elhokar apologizes for his treatment of Kaladin after the duel, and admits his fault in ruining the plan; he leaves.
Quote of the Chapter:
|“|| "It’s here," she said.
Gaz scratched at the socket beneath his eye patch. "Rocks?"
"Yes, guardsman Gaz," Shallan said. "Rocks. Beautiful, wonderful rocks."
In the distance, she saw shadows draped in a veil of misty rain. Seen together in a group like this, it was unmistakable. This was a city. A city covered over with centuries' worth of crem, like children's blocks dribbled with many coats of melted wax. To the innocent eye, it undoubtedly looked much like the rest of the Shattered Plains. But it was oh so much more.
It was proof. Even this formation Shallan stood upon had probably once been a building. Weathered on the stormward side, dribbled with crem down the leeward side to create the bulbous, uneven slope they had climbed.
This passage has something to do with the moment of proof, of vindication that Jasnah's (and now Shallan's) theories and extrapolation were correct. From the reader's perspective, their correctness was inevitable. Still, this moment when Shallan sees the confirmation, is totally gratifying after all the mixture of conviction, skepticism, and anxiety over the probable location of Stormseat. She still has to find the Oathgate, of course, but this is pretty strong evidence that she’s close.
Development of the Chapter:
This is the chapter where the last of the planning and maneuvering takes place. Then, things begin to get noisy.
These winds were unusual for the Weeping, which was supposed to be a period of placid rainfall, a time for contemplating the Almighty, a respite from highstorms.
Contrasted with Kaladin's feelings, this once again shows the marked dissimilarity in his and Shallan's attitudes toward the Weeping and the highstorms, only part of which can be attributed to each their upbringing. Kaladin hates the Weeping as being a gloomy time with no highstorms; Shallan sees it as a respite from them. The difference seems to reflect the contrast in their Radiant Orders as well as their personalities.
Things really are starting to get tense. The Highprinces are meeting in one of several identical tents, to make it difficult for an enemy strike team to take them out. The armies have been skirmishing for the last couple of days, with the Parshendi apparently attempting to steer them away from the center. Soldiers are nervous, as the familiar enemy has been replaced by red-eyed nightmares from ancient legends. It's now necessary to decide whether to prepare a defensive entrenchment, or continue to advance on the Parshendi's home plateaus. And it's reached the point where, though no one will quite say it out loud, it's too late to attempt to retreat back to the warcamps. They are committed, one way or the other. They have to fight ... and either win, or find Shallan's anticipated escape route through the Oathgate.
|“||"Tomorrow is the last day of the countdown," Dalinar said. "Scribbled on the walls during highstorms. Whatever it is, whatever it was, we meet it tomorrow - and you are my backup plan, Shallan Davar. You will find this portal, and you will make it work. If the evil overwhelms us, your pathway will be our escape. You may be the only chance that our armies - and indeed, Alethkar itself - have for survival."||”|
Back at the warcamp, Kaladin continues to be stubborn. While it would probably be better for his leg if he stayed off it longer, it's definitely better for his mind to fight - the rain, the depression, the pain, the wound, his grief ... he has a lot to fight, and if he took the easy way and gave in on just one facet, the rest might follow and he'd collapse completely. Continuing to fight is keeping him sane, and all of those individual battles work together to keep his mind functioning so that he's able to reason through to his eventual epiphany.
One near-term effect is that he's beginning to be more honest with himself, as he considers the people who are out on the Plains without him. In this moment, he muses on what might have happened had he been willing to be a Windrunner openly.
He had been so close to revealing what he could do ...
You’d been thinking that for weeks, he thought to himself. You’d never have done it. You were too scared.
He hated admitting it, but it was true.
Yes, it was true, and it's part of what damaged his bond with Syl so badly. For a Windrunner, it seems, acting based on irrational fear is not a tenable option.
The flip side does, however, have one potential for disaster: being more honest than diplomatic can be dangerous when dealing with kings. It turns out relatively well for Kaladin, despite his lack of tact; Elhokar was apparently already in a self-flagellating mood, and didn’t get as angry as he could have. For Elhokar’s sake, he’s willing, for the first time, to admit that the dueling fiasco was his own fault, brought on by his envy and resentment. However, Kaladin’s bluntness may also be, at least in part, to blame for the drunken state in which he finds the Elhokar later.
Still, Elhokar's flash of humility could be a wonderful thing for him.
Two days after Chapter 79, this is the last day before Zero Hour.
However, more interesting, is something else:
|“|| "When you came, the shadows went away."
"The ... shadows?"
"I saw them in mirrors, in the corners of my eyes. I could swear I even heard them whispering, but you frightened them. I haven’t seen them since. There’s something about you. Don’t try to deny it."
The obvious connection of Elhokar’s "shadows" is to Shallan’s earlier views of the Cryptics. This has led many readers to assume that Elhokar is a Lightweaver candidate; it has also led many to push back against that idea because they can’t conceive of Elhokar as a viable candidate for any Radiant Order, and there’s no observable connection to Lightweaving.
In defense of the Cryptics theory, however, one of Elhokar's description of these spren follows:
|“||"I see their faces in mirrors. Symbols, twisted, inhuman."||”|
That sounds very like Shallan’s early glimpses of Pattern, etc.. This may well be a compelling argument. Even so, while readers don’t see Elhokar being artistic or creative in the usual ways (which are feminine roles in Vorinism), readers do see a noteworthy ability in Elhokar to lie to himself, as well as a reasonably well-developed ability to play a role when it's demanded of him. Specifically, he does his best to play the role of King, even though he himself knows he's not really doing a very good job of it. These aspects may be enough to attract the attention of the Cryptics, though they have clearly not done much to create a Nahel bond with him.
On the other hand, as readers have learned more about spren and how Realmatics functions on Roshar, it's also worth noting that there are a great many spren on this world, and of varying levels of sapience.
The Windrunner repellent effect is certainly not conclusive, since readers know that honorspren and Cryptics are at odds. If Elhokar had ever seen Pattern, or if Shallan had ever seen the creatures hanging around Elhokar, we’d have gotten immediate clarification. For now, it remains an open question—but one very worth consideration.
Shallan’s interest in Adolin has several aspects. First, he’s simply a much higher-status match than she could ever have hoped for, prior to her father's death. However you might feel about it IRL, in this society, that matters for most people. Previously, she would have expected to marry for the sake of her family—either someone slightly above her station, in hopes of elevating the family with her, or someone below her station, as a reward or bribe to keep creditors from being obnoxious. To then find herself betrothed to the most eligible bachelor in Alethkar, near in line to the throne? It’s like a fairy tale.
Second, she finds him physically attractive. While this tends to be somewhat lower on the scale of importance for women than for men, it certainly adds to the fairytale sensation.
Jezrien stands alone on this chapter. In the first half of it, Dalinar is displaying the leadership of a general and a king; in the second half, Kaladin, the Windrunner, faces Elhokar, the King.
Words of Diagram:
It's iambic, though not pentameter, but it does have a rhythm if one reads it that way.
Anyway ... a man this unstable, with these wild swings of competence, set up as king of the whole world? This does not seem wise.
- Paraphrased from Alice Arneson